Cuyahoga County’s executive plans to continue sending absentee ballot applications to all voters, circumventing a ban the state’s top elections official had imposed on boards of election. County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced Thursday that his administration will pay about $330,000 for a mass mailing, if County Council approves the expense Monday. Seven council members, including Republican Mike Gallagher, have already signed on as sponsors.
“The vote-by-mail program which Cuyahoga and other counties across the state were running were working. It was good government,” said FitzGerald, a Democrat. “That’s a principle that is worth going out on a limb for.”
FitzGerald’s solution might be short-lived, though. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said he plans to look for a “legislative fix” that would prevent county governments from paying for the mailings in the future.
Since 2006, the Cuyahoga board of elections has regularly sent ballot applications to about 650,000 active voters. Hamilton and Franklin counties had similar programs.
But Husted on Monday outlawed boards from mailing the applications, stating that policies should be uniform throughout Ohio.
In addition, a controversial state law — which will take effect in six weeks unless opponents collect more than 230,000 signatures to trigger a referendum — will prevent county boards of elections from paying return postage on applications or paying postage for completed ballots.
FitzGerald’s plan “kind of flies in the face of what they were trying to achieve in their legislation,” said Husted spokesman Matt McClellan.
Even before Husted’s ban, the Cuyahoga board of elections split along partisan lines Monday on a vote to continue sending applications. Republicans opposed the program, in part because Husted — the board’s boss — had opposed it as far back as February.